Thursday, October 27, 2011

Goal of alcohol policy explained

By Meg Beerling
Feature Editor

Nikki Hodous (formerly Nikki Peters) spoke of the practical reasons for Saint Mary's University’s alcohol policy as well as her feelings about the restrictions placed on students.

“It’s been easier for the administration at other places I’ve worked,” said Hodous, director of residence life at SMU. Other schools would rather segregate their student populations based on age so the administration does not have to sort out underage drinking, she said. However, she said that SMU cares about its students and takes a practical approach to health, safety and good decision making.

“SMU really does listen to its students,” said Hodous. Last year, as part of his duties as a student senate representative, Bob Rousseau approached Residence Life with the student concerns that one case of beer or two bottles of wine or one bottle of liquor per Village apartment was not a practical amount. This year, the amount of alcohol allowed per Village apartment was doubled.

“It’s just proof that the senators listen, and the school does too,” said Hodous.

Hodous said that the administration doesn’t want to prohibit students from having fun. She said the goal of alcohol regulations is to help students learn responsibility for alcohol in social settings.

“Our fines and punishments are a lot different from the law and court systems,” said Hodous. SMU policy tries to provide a more educational punishment rather than huge fines or worse consequences, she said.

Underage drinking is punishable in different ways on campus. According to the policy, an underage student may be required to take one of three alcohol courses accompanied by $25, $50 or $100 fines, depending on the violation. These punishments are not linear. Each violation is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, said Hodous. SMU is also willing to work with students by giving them community service options, she said.

“We all make mistakes,” said Hodous. “The more willing a student is to be honest, the easier it is to help [him or her].”

The breath test is the biggest thing, said Hodous. If a student hasn’t been drinking, it is his or her responsibility to take the test, she said; it is not the responsibility of the staff to remind students.

“I try to tell students that at the beginning of the year because that’s important,” she said. “And if you have been drinking, don’t take it; it’s just going to get you in more trouble.”

Residence Life tries to be reasonable by allowing students to associate with peers of all age groups, said Hodous.

“It’s not like we go around looking for violations,” she said. “It usually goes along with a noise complaint or some other violation, so be smart about social gatherings.”

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